Concerned About Where Your Food Comes From? So Are We. There’s No Need To Bypass Hy-Vee Select Private Label Tuna

Canned tuna has been part of Americans’ diets since the turn of the 20th century. But it didn’t really become a staple until years later when new fishing and dressing methods made it easier to catch a big, 40-pound tuna and remove excess oil that gave the fish a pungent odor that many people found objectionable.

After that, there was no curbing Americans’ appetite for tuna – until recently, that is.

From 1950 to 2000, tuna (mostly canned) was the most popular seafood in the United States. At the peak of its popularity, 85 percent of American households had at least one can of tuna in their cupboards. But last year, per capita consumption of tuna dropped to a 15-year low, according to USDA data and other studies cited recently by The Washington Post.

The article cites numerous reasons consumers are passing over canned tuna, most stemming from their growing awareness about how their food is raised and harvested. Consumer concerns range from overfishing to bycatch of other species, including the beloved dolphin.

At Hy-Vee, we share those concerns and have proactively addressed them with Hy-Vee Select Private Label Tuna, our overall commitment to sustainable seafood, and our Responsible Choice seafood initiative.

Our Select Private Label Tuna comes with a guarantee you won’t find with most major-label brands. Much of the canned tuna on the market today is caught using industrial scale purse seines and longlines, which result in high levels of bycatch of non-target species, such as dolphins, sharks, turtles and other marine life.

That was a big concern for Hy-Vee, so we looked to FishWise to help us develop two private-label canned tuna lines. Our new “Chunk Light” and “Solid or Chunk White” canned tunas are among the most progressive canned tuna offerings of any major retailer.

Our Chunk Light, which is pole and line-caught skipjack tuna, is especially impressive, given that the Monterey Bay Aquarium says it is the most sustainable option for any canned tuna.

The Solid or Chunk White is pole-and-troll caught albacore tuna (pole-and-troll are the two most selective albacore fishing methods), which results in very little bycatch.

The latter is also sourced from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries in the United States and New Zealand. We are quite proud to offer both of these sustainably sourced canned tuna products which are big steps forward in our efforts to responsibly source all our fresh and private label seafood by the end of 2015.

So, consumers can reach for a package of Hy-Vee Select Private Label Tuna with the confidence of knowing that we’re as concerned as they are about the health of the world’s oceans and the species that depend on them for survival.

Environmental Advocacy: We Can’t Just Kick the Can Down the Road on Bering Sea Canyons. We Must Protect Them Now.

As a leading provider of commercial seafood in the United States, Hy-Vee is taking a progressive approach on several key environmental advocacy initiatives that we expect will have a positive effect on the health of the oceans and the species that live and swim in them.

We have made a strong commitment to building a market for Responsible Choice seafood. This makes us an important stakeholder in discussions about how to best protect the health of ecosystems that harbor and nurture that seafood.

Here’s a recent example of how we’re using our sway:

Hy-Vee appealed to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) to approve protections for the Zhemchung and Pribilof canyons, which are carved into the Bering Sea shelf break, a unique ecoregion known as the Green Belt due to its extraordinary productivity.

The canyons contain abundant and diverse corals and sponges that provide valuable habitat for commercially important fish and other marine species. In many parts of the canyons, the deep sea corals can be over 1,000 years old. If stripped from the ocean floor or crushed by fishing gear, the corals are unlikely to will recover, creating a habitat deficit that is difficult if not impossible to regenerate.

Numerous fish and crab species depend upon canyon terrain for spawning and nursery areas, making these habitats important for sustaining species’ populations. Commercially important species that utilize the canyons for essential fish habitat include rockfish, Pacific cod, halibut, pollock and several species of crab.

Based on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) assessment that said the geography, if not the habitat, of the canyons is unique and continuous study was warranted, the council decided on further study – the equivalent of kicking the can down the road.

Hy-Vee and a coalition of environmental groups and other stakeholders have taken the position that additional study isn’t the right tack. Protecting the canyons now is the equivalent of providing stakeholders with an insurance policy that can help preserve biodiversity as well as ensure the sustainability of fisheries and seafood supply.

Our leadership in advocacy on this issue may surprise some people. It’s as simple as this: we want to be able to offer our customers the species most impacted by non-sustainable management practices well into the future. If the experts we rely on urge more protection, we’re going to side with these approaches.

We can’t just protect one species at a time. We’ve made a commitment to other sea life and habitat, and one of the ways to accomplish this is to make sure all the species thrive.

Additional Resources

The Ross Sea Pledge isn’t Just Words on Paper for Hy-Vee

As part of our efforts to responsibly source Hy-Vee seafood and fish, we’re involved in some behind-the-scenes environmental efforts intended to prevent some problems before they occur.

One of those efforts is the Ross Sea Pledge. The Ross Sea teems with species of large predatory fish and small krill, tiny crustaceans that are a giant link in the aquatic food chain and help sustain the whales, seals, penguins and other aquatic mammals that live in this pristine, unaltered ecosystem. It’s a magnificent “living laboratory” for scientists to study marine life and is known as “the last ocean” because of its relatively untouched state.

Unfortunately, the Ross Sea is vulnerable. By signing the Ross Sea Pledge, Hy-Vee has given its word that it won’t be part of that developing problem and is, in fact, part of the solution. By signing the pledge, Hy-Vee supports creation of a Marine Protected Area to protect the area against commercial fishing and pollution. This initiative is broadly supported by governments, scientists, NGOs and the fishing industry.

Hy-Vee is proud to be part of that group. What it means to customers is that we will not procure Antarctic toothfish (known as Chilean sea bass) from the Ross Sea. By taking a hands-off approach to that species from the Southern Ocean, we join others in working to reduce the level of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Southern Ocean. Chilean sea bass is a notorious species for IUU fishing.

We’re not the only retailer supporting the initiative, but we are one of the few who are taking these aggressive steps to ensure that we’re procuring seafood for our customers in a way that not only protects the supply of seafood for generations to come but also the health of the oceans.

By the end of 2015, all fresh and Hy-Vee brand seafood will be responsibly sourced.

We’ve staked our corporate word on that, something we don’t do lightly. It’s not just lip service; we’re taking the actions to back it up.

More detailed information about the Ross Sea can be found here.